Simon Mauger’s quest for his first REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Championship title took another giant step forward last weekend when he and codriver Jonathan Hawkins took outright victory on the Tyneside Stages Rally in their Metro 4M4. With two rounds to go, Mauger already has three maximum scores to his credit, leaving any other pretenders to the crown with a daunting task in prospect. OK, Mauger is familiar with the Otterburn Ranges – he won the Tyneside Stages outright in 2010 in his Escort and was 3rd twelve months ago, but the Metro is a whole new ‘kettle of fish’!…
Thirteen stages were planned but, owing to some earlier delays, the last one was canned by the organisers. Nevertheless, there were still more than 70 miles of competition on offer and, straight away, Mauger/Hawkins were quickest on the opener by a second from Damian Cole/ Jack Morton whose Fiesta WRC was having its first taste of Asphalt Championship rallying. Mauger then lost a few seconds on SS2 – see photo! – and it was Alex Laffey, accompanied by 2014 Tyneside-winning co-driver Andrew Roughead, who put his Fiesta R5+, which had a complete engine rebuild since the ALMC Stages, at the top of the timesheets, ahead of Cole/Morton, David Tinn/Giles Dykes (Proton Millington) and Mauger.
So, after two stages, Cole/Morton led by a second from Mauger/Hawkins, but FTD on SS3 put the Metro into a lead it was to retain for the rest of the day. Even so, the Fiesta crew kept the pressure on and the final winning margin was only 12s. Tinn/Dykes had been third but, on SS9, Laffey/Roughead edged in front and that was the order in which they finished. David Hardie/John McCulloch were the next Championship finishers – another solid run (their fourth from four starts!) saw their Impreza come home in 6th place which was more than enough to maintain Hardie’s second place in the points. McCulloch, meanwhile, will feel that the long trip down to Otterburn from the previous day’s Speyside Stages in Elgin will have been well worth the effort as the result keeps him at the top of the Co-drivers’ table. Richard & Ben Slinger recorded their best finish of the season so far with 9th in their Lancer EVO6.
Richard Clews was nursing an injured right wrist and could have done with an event consisting entirely of left-hand bends! However, a determined effort – not to mention large quantities of Ibuprofen gel! – saw his Impreza holding its own to come home in 11th place, just six seconds off a place in the Top Ten! The John Horton Motorsport Management ‘Star Performer’ trophy seems particularly apt in this instance….
Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh don’t seem to have much luck on Otterburn, especially recently! This time, after five stages, their Impreza WRC was lying 3rd, one second behind Cole’s Fiesta. Then, on SS6, a punctured tyre required changing and, in total, six minutes were lost to the leaders. Nevertheless, they carried on and a spirited drive, which included FTD on SS7, pulled them back up from 41st to 15th place by the close.
Richard Felgate/Mark Mason rekindled memories of the 2012 season when they won the Millington Rear-Wheel Drive Challenge in their BMW M3. This time, they had been in the Top Ten overall until a puncture two stages from home saw them slip back, fortunately not enough to deny them maximum RWD points on the day. The Underwoods, Darren & Sue, were next in their Escort G3, with Barry Renwick/Steve Dargan’s Escort MkII third.
Paul Evans was hoping to be in the mix in his Escort – Roy Millington had recently completed a full rebuild of its engine and a cracked diff. casing, which had been spotted rather late in the day, had also been repaired since the car’s last outing. However, getting on to the grass during the first loop of stages rendered Paul a mere passenger as the car spun round and slid into a culvert from where, although virtually undamaged, it was irretrievable in the time allowed….
Leaders of the AB Motorsport Front-Wheel Drive Challenge at the start of the day, Royston & Bridge Carey’s Renault Clio was 9th overall after the opener, but getting stuck in a ditch on the second loop of stages saw to it that they would be going no further. Andrew Hockridge/ Aled Edwards took full advantage and a Top Twenty finish not only gave their Citroen DS3 R3 maximum FWD points on the day, but also moves them ahead of the Careys in the table.
Kev Monaghan/Chris Purvis had a good run over their home territory in their Escort F2 Maxi to take 2nd Class B11 points, behind the Underwoods, and similar in the FWD Challenge. However, by their own admission, it’s probably too late in the season to make any inroads into the awards positions, but considerable progress has been made in sorting the car out in readiness for another crack at B11 & FWD next year.
On the subject of awards, David & Mathew White took another maximum N4 points score on the Tyneside in their Impreza and cannot now be beaten for the class this season. Congratulations to them both!
The 1400cc contenders were out in force on Otterburn, with Ian Barnard/Richard Bonner (Nova) prevailing over the Nissan Micra Kit Car of Steve Brown and, on this occasion, Andrew Irving’s Peugeot 205. Missing from the finish, due to an earlier off, was the Micra of Ian & Mags Kelly. However, Class B9 is still wide open – Barnard, Brown & Kelly are all in with a shout of the class and, as each has already posted one retirement, all points gained between now and the end of the season can be counted….
The Tyneside Stages was also the second asphalt round of the new BTRDA Rally Challenge. As one would expect, Simon Mauger and Damian Cole scored well but, from amongst those who are better known for their exploits on gravel rounds, the performances of Stephen Petch/Ian Windress (Fiesta S2000), Sara Williams (Impreza) and Ash Slights (Toyota Yaris) are particularly worthy of note. However, if you thought Mauger was lucky to get away with his close encounter with the bridge on SS2, Richard Sykes/Emma Morrison (Citroen DS3 R3T) were not so lucky and their event came to an abrupt halt at the same place – see photo!
The challenge of an event on the Otterburn Ranges, coupled with the speed required to stand any chance of success are usually a recipe for a high rate of attrition. On this occasion, however, all the Top 15 seeds survived which, in itself, helps to set the Championship up for a grandstand finish.
PROGRAMMING FOR THE FUTURE!….
The recent ‘media guidelines’ circulated by the MSA in the wake of the Safety Report are putting extra pressure on both organisers and the members of the press alike as they attempt to ‘get it right’. Notwithstanding, having liaised with the members of Alnwick & District and Berwick & District Motor Clubs prior to the start, Wayne Goldring, Gemma and the team from ‘Special Stage’ were present on the Tyneside Stages Rally and the forthcoming programme is due to be broadcast on Motors TV at 22.00 on Friday 14th August.
Tables have already been circulated – please note that, due to technical issues on the Manx National Rally, they are still provisional but, if you have any queries on those allocated for the Tyneside Stages, please contact the Championship Coordinator ASAP.
Round 5: The entry list for the Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally (30th August) is almost full. Regulations/entry forms may still be downloaded from http://www.epyntmc.co.uk but, if you are intending to enter, please contact the Entries Secretaries : Keith & Trina Edwards – Tel: 01982 551246 / E-mail: email@example.com as a matter of some urgency….
Round 6 (FINAL): Regulations for the Cheviot Keith Knox Stages (4th October), our second visit to the Otterburn Ranges, are now available and can be downloaded from http://www.cheviotstages.org.uk where on-line entries can be made. Entries Secretary is Gordon Bradford, emai: firstname.lastname@example.org
CAN YOU HELP?
North East Rally Services were unable to get an Internet connection on the Tyneside Stages – so there were no live results available on the web. The only way to get Internet access from the service area on the Otterburn Military Ranges is via a telephone line and a dial-up modem.
The telephone line was a temporary installation many years ago, but has been there ever since. With the line many miles from the exchange in Otterburn, it is now all but unusable for Internet connection and there will be the same problem on the Cheviot Keith Knox Stages unless a solution can be found.
Satellite broadband may be the answer, but it would have to be tried first to see if it works okay. Can anyone help with advice/equipment etc? Maybe someone has a motorhome with satellite broadband that we could use for the Cheviot.
AWARDS PRESENTATION & DINNER DANCE
This year’s REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Championship Awards Presentation & Dinner Dance will take place at Moor Hall Hotel, Sutton Coldfield, on Saturday 7th November. The earlier date given to the organisers of the final round by the MoD has allowed us to move away from the clash with the RAC Rally and we hope to see as many of you there as possible. Further details will be issued in due course.
2016 MSA ASPHALT RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR
Following the news that the organisers of the Jim Clark Rally have been given permission to run a closed-road event again next year, we are delighted to put forward the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship calendar for next season.
N.B. THE FOLLOWING IS PROVISIONAL & SUBJECT TO MSA APPROVAL
Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt 13th March
IMGold Manx National Rally 6th/7th May
Jim Clark National Rally 3rd/4th June
ALMC Stages 3rd July (TBC)
Tyneside Stages 7th August (TBC)
Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally 28th August
Cheviot Keith Knox Stages TBA
5/7 Scores to Count.
Photographs courtesy of http://www.90Right.com